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French Ecocriticism

From the Early Modern Period to the Twenty-First Century


Edited By Daniel A. Finch-Race and Stephanie Posthumus

This book expounds fruitful ways of analysing matters of ecology, environments, nature, and the non-human world in a broad spectrum of material in French. Scholars from Canada, France, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States examine the work of writers and thinkers including Michel de Montaigne, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Arthur Rimbaud, Marguerite Yourcenar, Gilbert Simondon, Michel Serres, Michel Houellebecq, and Éric Chevillard. The diverse approaches in the volume signal a common desire to bring together form and content, politics and aesthetics, theory and practice, under the aegis of the environmental humanities.

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Towards an Ecopoetics of French Free Verse: Marie Krysinska’s Rythmes pittoresques (David E. Evans)


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David E. Evans

Towards an Ecopoetics of French Free Verse: Marie Krysinska’s Rythmes pittoresques

Abstract: This chapter examines the potential of vers libre, a radical new departure for French poetry in the 1880s, to provide a model for ecopoetic reading that allows the poetic text and its representations of nature to resist conventional, familiar modes of interpretation. While the natural world is a constant presence in French poetry throughout the nineteenth century, until the 1880s it is subsumed within an artificial, regular and highly codified metrical structure. The authority of such a restrictive form gradually wanes in the face of social, political and artistic factors specific to France, namely the crisis of absolute authority that befalls the country after revolution. Poems in free verse reflect this instability, since they come with no pre-existing, distorting metrical lens. They require the reader to construct patterns of meaning while reading – each of which is unstable, none of which is able to claim absolute authority. Nature features prominently in these texts, and my examination of the representation of nature in key works by Marie Krysinska (1857–1908) posits that the poetics of French free verse makes nature and the text itself into a site of resistance to measurement and commoditisation. Such resistance is a recurrent theme of recent ecocriticism, and poetic strategies particular to the French context have a significant contribution to make to ecocritical modes of reading.

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